Living with…Nirvana…for a week
After the feel-good of Neil-good Diamond, it may not be the natural place to go, but this is where I find myself – Nirvana – a place where sumptuous emotions are cast aside, where we are outside everything. Nevermind, the grunge equivalent of whatever. And who better to take us there than Kurt Cobain, the deceased lead singer of the band. Following on from the macaroni cheese reference last week, not sure what food equates to Nirvana, and maybe I’ll know by the end of the week.
In the early 90s Seattle was probably best known as the cultural home of those icons and exports of the great US of A- Starbucks and Microsoft. Later was to come the TV comedy Frasier probably the city’s greatest universal cultural contribution but that’s another story. In 1991 there emerged a band called Nirvana. Some people will have heard of them, but not many. Suddenly on our screens was that wonderful Smells like Teen Spirit video. The high school concert subverted, the screaming, mumbling Cobain, the caretaker dumbly rocking back and forth, the murky cheerleaders, the total breakdown of order. The loss of innocence – something exciting, different. Well, was for me…which is probably why I need to get out more.
My journey to discovering Nirvana first time around starts in a family wedding in South London. Its going OK but I’m sitting there with dread at the thought of the disco to come when I start chatting to the guy opposite. Turns out he’s a Palace fan, a real one who knows his stuff. [Quick cultural explanation here – this is soccer/ football I’m talking about and I support Brighton and Hove Albion from the South Coast and our most hated rivals are Crystal Palace from South London. Only Palace and Brighton fans understand why they detest each other’s club – the rest of the footballing world always looks a little surprised when we mention it]
We spend the next few hours locked in good natured sparring and recollections of the happy hours hurling insults on the terraces. Oh those heady days of Gerry Ryan’s broken leg during the game; bricks flying between the fans. And then it turns our he’s in to music, and in a good way. He works with a record label and what’s more has CDs to give away. Its the early 90s and I’ve just bought my first CD player and only have Fleetwood Mac’s Greatest Hits to play on it. By the end of an enjoyable chat where we’ve both managed to consume several drinks and avoid the dance floor (success!) he’s offered to send me a bag of CD goodies.
To my surprise and delight a bag of 20 CDs turns up that week. Classics from REM, Lyle Lovett, Guns n Roses and of course Nirvana’s Nevermind. Great selection and instant CD collection. This is when I’ll confess that I only played two tracks off Nevermind then – Teen Spirit and Come As You Are – and although they got plenty of air-guitar play, I never ventured on to the rest of the album. A number of years later I gave the album away to a friend’s teenage son who was going the grunge way…felt he’d get more out of it than me.
So nearly twenty years on, I revisit Nevermind and this time will listen all the way through! And its not a disappointment – there are four obvious outstanding tracks : Smells like Teen Spirit, Come As You Are, Lithium and In Bloom – but also a very strong supporting cast. The manic rejections of Breed, the deeply disturbing Polly, the moribund Something in the Way all add up to classic rock but boy do you feel depressed at the end. Kurt Cobain went on to kill himself three years later.
Great album but struggling to think what type of food it is, and think I’ll take it in small portions and occasionally, not too regularly. Maybe a cold meat platter with gherkins.
And finally, lest I take this all too seriously Weird Al Yankovich’s wonderful rip-off of Teen Spirit “What is this song all about?”…love it that the cheerleaders have hairy armpits (don’t know why).
And finally again to end on a feel-good Neil-good note here’s Polyphonic Spree’s totally uplifting and mad version of Lithium
Not sure that’s what Kurt had in mind, and I guess its all a bit too late to find out now.